National Chief Perry Bellegarde Elected to Top AFN Job

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Newly Elected AFN National Chief Bellegarde - image by Derek Fox
AFN National Chief Bellegarde - image by Derek Fox
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde

WINNIPEG – ANISHINABEK – Perry Bellegarde is the new Assembly of First Nations National Chief. The election held in Winnipeg today saw Chiefs start voting this morning. Seen as the most broadly based candidate by many, Grand Chief Bellegarde addressed the assembly after his election.

“To Canada we say, for too long have we been dispossessed of our homelands and the wealth of our rightful inheritance,” stated National Chief. Bellegarde. “Canada will no longer develop pipelines, transmission lines or any infrastructure on our lands as business as usual. First Nations peoples will oppose any development which deprives our children of the legacy of our ancestors”.

Ontario Regional Chief Stan Beardy congratulates Perry Bellegarde as the newly elected national chief of the Assembly of First Nations and looks forward to sitting on the AFN Executive with him during his term.

“The chiefs have spoken and elected a leader whom they felt would best represent their interests on a national scale,” Regional Chief Beardy said. “I look forward to working with National Chief Bellegarde on the priorities our leaders in Ontario are facing and particularly restructuring the AFN so it accessible, relevant and representative of our communities’ concerns. I believe that we can move forward in strength and unity for the betterment of all our communities.”

National Chief Bellegarde won in the first ballot with 291 votes, which constitutes 63 percent of the eligible ballots. Ghislain Picard had 136 votes and Leon Jourdain had 35.

Nishnawbe Aski Nation (NAN) Grand Chief Harvey Yesno, on behalf of the Executive Council, congratulates Perry Bellegarde on his election as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations (AFN) by First Nation leaders during the AFN Special Chief Assembly in Winnipeg today:

“On behalf of NAN First Nations I congratulate Perry Bellegarde on his election as National Chief of the Assembly of First Nations. As regional Chief of the Federation of Saskatchewan Indian Nations, Perry Bellegarde has demonstrated his ability to build consensus among First Nation leadership and we look forward to working with him to strengthen the role of the AFN. I am confident that Perry Bellegarde will be a strong advocate for First Nations as our national representative and we look forward to working with him to establish a new and productive relationship with our federal Treaty partner.”

NAN also thanked Ghislain Picard, the assembly’s interim leader, and Leon Jourdain, former Chief of Lac La Croix First Nation in Ontario.

Anishinabek Nation Grand Council Chief Patrick Madahbee congratulated National Chief Perry Bellegarde.

“We look forward to working with this long-established experienced leader who knows the issues and will work to bring First Nations together to work hard for our people,” said Madahbee.

Newly Elected AFN National Chief Bellegarde - image by Derek Fox
Newly Elected AFN National Chief Bellegarde – image by Derek Fox

Bernard Valcourt, Minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development, issued the following statement today:

“I welcome the results of the Assembly of First Nations election for National Chief and I wish Chief-elect Perry Bellegarde well as he takes on his new role.

Our Government believes that Aboriginal Peoples should have the same quality of life, the same opportunities and the same choices as all other Canadians; that’s why we continue to take concrete action on priorities we share with First Nations such as economic development, good governance, skills training and advancing treaty negotiations and reconciliation.

To advance these priorities, since 2006 our Government has secured the passage of key legislation such as:

  • The First Nations Financial Transparency Act which helps to provide First Nations, like all Canadians, with transparency and accountability from the elected officials and helps to empower them to ensure band revenues are being used for their benefit.
  • The First Nations Elections Act which will provide a robust election framework, improve the capacity of First Nations to select leadership, build prosperous communities and improve economic development in their communities.
  • The Family Homes on Reserves and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act so that women living on reserves have access to the same basic matrimonial rights every other Canadian woman, including access to emergency protection orders in the event of a relationship breakdown.
  • The Safe Drinking Water For First Nations Act which was closely developed with First Nations will make it possible for us to work together to develop regulations comparable to those that safeguard drinking water elsewhere in Canada.
  • As well as key pieces of legislation that provide Northerners with province-like decision making powers and modernize and improve the regulatory process so that Northerners can enjoy a predictable and robust regulatory regimes like the rest of Canada.

We have also introduced skills training supports through a job readiness program that helps to provide First Nation youth with job readiness skills so that they can secure and enjoy the benefits of a good job.

We have taken action to help address some of the key impediments to treaty negotiations and are engaging Aboriginal People on broader reforms to advance reconciliation and encourage economic development across the country.

These are just some examples of the concrete action we are taking on our shared priorities, and we are steadfastly committed to continue this important progress for the benefit of Aboriginal People and all Canadians.”

“On behalf of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians I would like to congratulate Chief Bellegarde on his successful campaign,” said Grand Chief Gord Peters. “I look forward to working with Chief Bellegarde on a number of issues including the education portfolio.”

Bellegarde was sworn in early Wednesday afternoon in Winnipeg after defeating Ghislain Picard, the regional Chief for Quebec and Labrador and Leon Jourdain, Chief of the Lac La Croix First Nation in Northwestern Ontario. Picard held the position of interim National Chief following former National Chief Sean Atleo’s resignation in May of this year.

Chiefs from across the country gathered at the three-day convention to address several issues including inadequate funding models for education, and violence against women.

Rinelle Harper, a 16 year-old student from Garden Hill First Nation in Manitoba, added her voice to the call for an inquiry into missing and murdered Indigenous women in Canada. Harper was brutally assaulted and left for dead near the Assiniboine River last month. Her remarks at the AFN convention are the first time she has spoken publically since the attack. Harper received a standing ovation from the Chiefs and delegates in attendance.

Who is the New AFN National Chief?

National Chief Bellegarde was raised on Little Black Bear in Saskatchewan with his five brothers by his parents, Yvonne and Charles.

Through his family, he learned the values of respect, hard work and the importance of education. A recipient of the Queen’s Jubilee Medal, Chief Bellegarde was the first Treaty Indian to graduate from the University of Regina in 1984 with a Bachelor of Administration.

Currently, he is completing the Certified Corporate Board Training through The Directors College sponsored by the Conference Board of Canada and McMaster University’s DeGroote School of Business.

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